Basil, Pigs, Aliens and other tales!

Hello friends of Whatley Farm! We've had a great week working hard in the to help our plants and animals grow. They've been thirsty, and the ground is now, we're hoping for rain...Just not at a time that's inconvenient for market shopping, or anything that any of you wanted to do outside, for that matter ;) It's probably too much to ask, but we'll take what we can get!

Pictured above is a delicious salad we made with our first basil of the season! It will be available Friday at market, so get it while you can! Of course, lots more next week. This salad is all from the farm, save for the oil and vinegar: cukes, spinach, basil, red onion. Cukes coming soon to market too, but the first go to the farmers ;)

We welcomed these beautiful Large Black (English heritage breed) pigs to the farm the other day. They are down in a new field we cleared, rooting up a storm! They will be giving us meat in October, so plan on a full selection of cuts being available at the winter markets.

It's an alien! Okay, just a "greensprouted" potato...These seed potatoes sat in trays in our greenhouse getting watered and growing their sprouts in the sun for 5 weeks before being planted. It's a technique used for planting whole seed potatoes that hit the ground running when they go in the ground. The sprouts are very stout after a few weeks in the greenhouse, and it also helps us to avoid the first wave of Colorado Potato Beetles :)

Looking forward to seeing folks this weekend at the markets! 


Ben, Laura, Nick, and the whole crew

Sunshine returns! Watch it grow...

Howdy folks, well the sun is back and that makes us so happy! We had a great couple of days working hard outside to catch up on weeding and irrigation...Here's the long view, with Logan in there somewhere hooking up drip lines in the tomato and peppers tunnels:

We've also started harvesting more crunchy and leafy things from the field, like this Broccoli Raab (aka Rapini) and Chinese Broccoli! Radishes, spinach, lettuce heads, lettuce mix, and lots of herbs round out the spring selections this week at market:

And there's always something to look forward to in farming, such as these greenhouse cucumbers with itsy, bitsy cukes on em! Coming soon:

Finally, head on over to the homepage to see a video of some baby Pekin ducks who just arrived! They're so cute. Hope to see you at market this weekend! Looks like beautiful weather for it.

--Ben, family, and crew

"Skinning the Cat"--(it's not what you think!)

This week...besides harvesting our first crops out of the field (lots of baby spinach, lettuce mix, and lettuce heads)...and having a planting marathon (tons of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cukes, tomatillos, plus another round of all the spring crops!)...we "skinned the cats." Or "threw up caterpillars." Now don't jump to conclusions! It's all just farmer jargon for building temporary field greenhouses called "caterpillar tunnels" to grow heat-loving crops like tomatoes and peppers in.

Here's a pic of Sam and Hannah screwing together pipes for the ridgepoles:

Once those are all set up, we have to cover with plastic and lace it down with parachute cord. Here's Logan and Hannah tying it down, as seen through the hazy greenhouse poly:

Once it's all done, it ends up looking a bit like a caterpillar with scales, hence "caterpillar tunnel." While that term is in wide usage, and I have heard farmers joke about "skinning" greenhouses to refer to covering with plastic, I have to take personal responsibility for talking about "throwing up" of caterpillars...Here's a pic which shows some of the finished tunnels in the background, with Tara waving for scale!

I hope I haven't ruined your appetite with all this talk of caterpillars! Because in fact, we have been harvesting some delicious fresh food for you to buy at this weekend's markets: spring spinach and lettuce, and lots of different herbs! We still have lots of seedlings, too. Come check it out!



Getting ready for a whopper rain!

Howdy friends, we've been hustling to get field work done ahead of the whopper rain coming tonight! Hopefully it won't be too bad tomorrow, so you can come out to market in Brunswick and see us. There is always Saturday, which looks like it's going to be a great day!

These leeks that went in the ground earlier this week are going to love the rain, as is this ash tree up by the house:

That's our friend Daniel Wiener up there pruning out deadwood! He's quite a climber and is starting his own arborist service.

Now for a fun picture...don't be alarmed! We're not wearing these suits to avoid hazardous chemicals, just to protect ourselves from ticks while picking the nettles! The nettle patch is tick city with all the unmown grass.

We're coming to market with nettles and lots of other spring greens and herbs, lots of new seedlings which can go in the ground now (tomatillos, melons, basil, and much more), duck eggs, leaf lard and other delicious pork products. Have a great week if we don't see ya!


It's a Veritable Heat Wave!

Well I believe we got what we asked for! Temps over 90 F here at the farm today. But after harvesting and packing veggies and seedlings for market tomorrow, we got after another project that we have been picking away at: planting the pollinator hedgerow in between two of our home fields. We have approximately 200 native shrubs of diverse species going in there! 90 down, including all the Aronia, Witch Hazel, American Cranberry Bush, and Arrowwood.. Buttonbush, Spicebush, and more still to come!

Can you see all of us busy bees working in there planting tomatoes and peppers? First one person marks the holes, then another fertilizes, then another drops the plant, and finally someone comes along and plants it! Oh, and then we water it in with fish and seaweed juice...

And of course we have lots of seedlings for your garden coming to market, or if you miss us there, stop over to the Urban Garden Center on Rt 196 in Topsham. Here's a pic from earlier in the week (you can tell by their coats that it sure wasn't today). We have lots of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, cucumbers and more that are just loving this warm weather!

It'll be a good weekend to get the garden in! Come to Friday or Saturday market and get your organic plants (and free gardening advice).


Come on sun, shine here!

It has been a cool spring so far! The farmers are all talking about it up and down the coast...let's hope it warms up soon and that we get more sunshine. But on a diversified farm, if the weather is bad for one crop, it's good for another. And on this vegetable farm, while it hasn't been stellar weather for getting fields prepared, the grass and perennials are all growing great with the moisture.

But we're keeping busy as always! Here's Hannah and Kate putting up a ridgepole in the caterpillar tunnels (moveable greenhouses that grow tomatoes and peppers):

We also planted a lot of cool weather loving crops, like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi, and cabbage! We also planted our first peppers, cucumbers, and summer squash. Tomatoes this week. Here is a picture of Laura planting zinnias with Tara, a high school intern here for a few weeks learning the ropes. Her uncle is Dave Colson of MOFGA/New Leaf Farm, and she's a quick study!

Ben has to keep this short and sweet today, because he is headed to Texas for his cousin's college graduation! The farm is in the hands of our able helpers Logan, Hannah, Kate, and Sophie (as well as Laura Whatley, who is staying to take care of the ducks and get our new piglets settled in). Come see the extended family of employees at market this weekend! We've got lots of great greens. herbs. seedlings, duck eggs, nitrate-free bacon, and pork chops. See you next week!


Beautiful spring so far!

What a beautiful spring it's been so far! Plenty of rain, maybe bordering on too much at times but you can't pick the weather! The garlic is loving it. Here's our spicy specialty, Georgian Fire!

It has been difficult to get in fields and do tractor work with the heavy rain earlier this week, but we've managed to do some. Here's a pic of the electric cultivating tractor (1947 Allis Chalmers G which Nick converted to an electric motor--pretty cool!) getting ready to be unloaded at the Bowdoinham field:

The rain gave us some great opportunities to transplant, and we really went for it on Monday and Tuesday! Planted a big block of early spring crops (some of which is pictured below), including spinach, chard, lettuce, chicories (radicchio, escarole, puntarelle), broccoli and rapini! We actually skipped farmers market on Tuesday so we could have all hands on deck to plant the onions and shallots (all 20,000 of them!). Got it done with a little help from our friends!

We will be at market tomorrow and Saturday with lots of great stuff, including salad and cooking greens, fresh herbs (chives, thyme, oregano, tarragon), seedlings (lots of hardy stuff for planting now and some tomatoes for the early birds that can protect in case of frost), duck eggs, and pork chops! Here's Samantha framing some seedlings (she's working a few days a week on the farm and every Saturday at market). 

Hope to see you this weekend! 



Never a dull moment!

Would you look at that root! And that's a "runt" rhubarb that didn't yield well, which we replaced with another plant.

Sophie and the rest of the crew did a lot of work in the perennial gardens this week while I did field prep with the tractor. Weeding, mulching, planting--the works! Here's a pic of some fresh thyme we have coming to market this week, along with oregano, rosemary, and tarragon from our herb tunnel:

We did a lot of work in the greenhouse on seedlings, which we have coming to market this week! Early greens for your garden, like kale, chard, lettuce, arugula, as well as sunflowers. Lots more seedlings to come this year--vegetable, herb, and flower crops of all descriptions, each selected by us as tried-and-true varieties for organic growing in this area.

We also experimented with some new techniques for organic no-till gardening. Instead of tilling the whole plot where we will be planting tomatoes this year, we just dug out the perennial weeds with a fork, and then covered with those black silage tarps you see in the picture below. It's a technique called "occultation," and the idea is that the tarp will warm the soil (always a good thing in the spring), and the weeds which germinate under the tarp won't be able to grow. We'll leave it alone for 4 weeks, and hope for good results!

We all know farming isn't all fun and games, so I thought I'd throw a picture of some good old-fashioned ditch-digging which I did this week! This is for an internet cable to go to the barn and new greenhouse. Primarily, this is for a temperature monitoring system which we are installing to give us more peace of mind that the big greenhouses aren't getting too hot or cold when we can't be there to check on them...but we're all looking forward to being able to stream music while we're working out there, too! 

Lots of good deals on greens coming to market this week, including big bags of kale! Fresh herbs, duck eggs, pork, and a SALE on frozen roasted peppers! These are really good for slicing for sandwiches or salads, or cooking with some onions and greens for a simple and delicious pasta dish. Come see us at market this weekend and ask us for ideas!

This weekend is the LAST INDOOR market, then we're headed out to downtown Brunswick Tuesday and Friday from 8-2, and Crystal Spring Farm on Saturdays from 8:30-12:30. As a cap to a great market season, Ben and Nick's band Rough Sawn will be playing Brunswick Winter Market. Come out and hear some Americana music, drawing from bluegrass, country, Western swing, and contemporary folk. Kids welcome to dance!


Promises of Things to Come

Spring may have teased us with that nice warm sunny weather last week, but we're moving ahead so we'll be ready when it hits! The latest and greatest news is the arrival of these lady beetles (Ben is squinting at them on your right). We are releasing these generalist predators into our tunnels to eat pest bugs, and we made sure to leave lots of flowering mustards (like the arugula flower pictured next) for habitat.

Look on Facebook or Instagram for a video of Ben releasing the ladybugs!

We've been doing all kinds of things in addition to greenhouse work, harvesting LOADS of TASTY GREENS (available at this weekend's markets), and tending to our ducks...Here's a picture of Sophie and Hannah raking the mulch off garlic to maximize the sunlight hitting it and warming the soil. You can just barely see the green shoots in this picture, but they're there!

We also wrapped up pruning our raspberries, which involves cutting out winterkilled canes and thinning and trellising the remaining canes in a V-trellis. Here's Kate, Becca, and Hannah working on it this afternoon!

Farming is a good cure for boredom, since there's never a dull moment...Come see us at the markets this weekend, where we remain indoors until the end of the month. Friday 11-4 at the Midcoast Winter Farmer's Market (Topsham Fairground), Saturday 9-12:30 at the Brunswick Winter Market in Fort Andross.

Sprung Ahead

There's never a dull moment in the spring! We're charging ahead on everything we can while we wait for fields to dry out enough to do tractor work. We continue to harvest lots of greens from our high tunnels and greenhouse, so there's lots of those coming your way this weekend, including Big Bag Specials! 

We are setting up systems to make material handling more efficient on the farm. Here's Sophie and Hannah posing in front of their handiwork: new seedling carts to move seedlings around the greenhouse, in and out for hardening off, and COMING SOON TO A MARKET NEAR YOU: seedlings for sale on these racks which we will roll on to the market truck and roll out at farmers' market!

 Then of course we've got a spring fever for cleaning! Here's Logan showing how nicely everything is organized in the market truck:

Then of course we've got a spring fever for cleaning! Here's Logan showing how nicely everything is organized in the market truck:

Another exciting thing we are doing is trying to cultivate habitat for beneficial insects and educate ourselves about the interactions between predator and prey. Here are some hover flies attacking aphids which just appeared on a small patch of our spinach. I was going to nip it in the bud and try to remove the plant material which the aphids had gotten into, but the flies beat me to it! I spoke with a lab in NY state that is going to support us with beneficials in our greenhouse. Next week is our first shipment of lady beetles!

Lastly, come see us at market and be sure not to miss the Farmers Market Bluegrass Jamboree we are hosting Friday night at the Topsham Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall! It runs from 6-10 PM with great music all throughout. Ben and Nick's band Rough Sawn is opening from 6-7:15, then local talent Borderline plays from 7:30-8:45, and from 9-10 is an open jam with lots of great local musicians planning on coming! There will be farm-fresh hot food available for purchase from the Market Cafe, and admission is a suggested $10 donation for adults (KIDS FREE!). Hope to see you there or at market this weekend!



Ben and the whole crew